Search

Arsenal star admits defeats at Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton ruined title dream

13:19 29 April 2014

Liverpool

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge (right) and Arsenal's Per Mertesacker battle for the ball

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Per Mertesacker admits Arsenal’s slow starts away to top-four rivals “killed” their hopes of maintaining a title challenge throughout the season.

Apart from a brief spell just before Christmas, the Gunners headed the Premier League table for a five-month period between September and February.

But a 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield prompted their slide – and further heavy defeats away to Chelsea and Everton tipped Arsene Wenger’s team into a battle just to hold on to fourth place.

Although the Gunners are just one result away from confirming their spot in next season’s Champions League qualifiers, Mertesacker concedes that lessons must be learned before they can harbour serious title ambitions.

“Of course everyone wanted us to get further up [the table], especially the fans,” said the German defender. “We were top of the league for a long time and everyone dreamt about maybe getting the title.

“But it takes more than just to stay at the top until the winter period. I think we couldn’t afford those away games against the big teams, so we didn’t deserve to be in the first three spots.

“That is something for next year that we have to manage much better. I think those away games killed us this year and hopefully we can learn from that.

“We have to learn quickly how to play and how to defend early in those away games, the first 20 to 25 minutes when you go there and they try to get you on the break.

“I think it was very similar in each game – the first 20 minutes we lost some balls in the middle of the park and they got us on the break. That’s something we have to look at next year.”

Despite the disintegration of their title bid, Arsenal have responded well in recent weeks and Monday’s 3-0 win against Newcastle was their third straight victory.

That makes the Gunners firm favourites to finish fourth, a position that could be confirmed even before they face West Brom in their final home game of the season on Sunday (kick-off 1.30pm).

Everton will be unable to catch Wenger’s side if they lose to Manchester City on Saturday, and Mertesacker feels Arsenal’s current form bodes well for their prospects next season.

“We play on Sunday so we have to wait, but we have it in our own hands and we want to secure the fourth spot,” he added. “We just have to think about the next game.

“The possibility to secure Champions League football was another test for us.

“Last year we managed to deal with an even more difficult situation – with 10 games to go, no-one expected us to be in the top four.

“This year, with a couple of injuries, we struggled heavily but we regrouped very well and how we managed this situation was maybe more important than last year.

“Everyone questioned us and our football qualities and I think the way we came back as a team makes us stronger for the future. We have improved a lot and we’re in good shape.”

Latest Sport Stories

Jan Vertonghen (left) feels Christian Eriksen can be one of the best playmakers in the Pemier League

Jan Vertonghen believes Christian Eriksen could become one of Tottenham’s best ever players after helping to persuade the Dane to join him at Spurs.

Harry Kane celebrates with Andros Townsend after putting Spurs 3-0 ahead with his 13th goal of the season. Pic: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Tottenham strode into the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup with a resounding 4-0 home win over Newcastle, avenging October’s league defeat in the process.

Yesterday, 18:00
England captain Matt Dean at the Blind World Cup

England captain Matt Dean says his team have learned a great deal from their experience at the Blind World Cup despite defeat in the semi-finals.

Sunday, December 14, 2014
Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini

Mathieu Flamini is convinced Arsenal can still enjoy success this season – provided their fortunes finally change on the injury front.

Most read sport

A Gogglebox family will have to keep their comments about the week’s TV to themselves from now on.

The online encyclopaedia created a special video showing how the year’s event are linked.

People are divided and it’s definitely following a pattern.

The Interview is about an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition